SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets ahead of team mate Kimi Raikkonen as Ferrari set a scorching pace in Saturday’sfinal practice session ahead of qualifying for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix.
Four-times world champion Vettel posted a quickest time of one minute, 33.336 seconds, just 0.053 quicker than Raikkonen, with the Finn followed by Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas, who has replaced retired world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, was third fastest clocking 0.371 seconds off Vettel’s pace, with Hamilton half a second slower than the German’s Ferrari.
Vettel’s lap was two seconds faster than the time Rosberg set on his way to pole position last year at the circuit, where Mercedes have won four of the last five races.
With the track set to get faster after limited running on Friday, it could put Michael Schumacher’s fastest time of 1:32.238 seconds set in 2004 within reach.
Felipe Massa was fifth quickest for Williams ahead of Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Williams’ 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll was eighth ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, who rounded out the top 10.
Saturday’s hour of practice was hectic with teams trying to cram in as much running as possible.
The Shanghai weather all but wiped out the first two practice sessions on Friday with poor visibility in the city forcing the grounding of the medical support helicopter.
Drivers were only able to run for 22 of the scheduled 90 minute opening session while second practice was wiped out altogether.
Sunday’s race will see Vettel keen to cement Ferrari’s credentials as genuine title contenders with a second successive win, after his triumph in the season-opening race in Australia.
Hamilton, however, is the most successful driver at the Shanghai circuit with four victories to his name.
Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Peter Rutherford